Weight Loss and Sexual Abuse.

Today’s guest post is by Davey Wavey’s good friend and spiritual weight release coach, Diane Petrella. Diane is also one of the contributors to The Davey Wavey Weight Loss Program.

It is estimated that one in four girls and one in six boys will have experienced some form of sexual abuse by the age of eighteen. These exploitative behaviors range from exposure to more invasive forms of sexual assault. If you were sexually abused as a child, and have had difficulty releasing weight and keeping it off, you are not alone. Chances are your ongoing weight loss difficulties stem from your subconscious mind still wanting to protect that little girl, or that little boy, you once were.

I’ll call her Anna. She believes her weight gain started when she was in the fourth grade. That was the year she moved into her stepfather’s house and he began sexually abusing her. She remembers it was then because she loved the little purple flowers on the wall paper in her new bedroom. She methodically would count the purple petals hoping he would stop touching her by the time she reached one hundred. When I saw her in my office some thirty years later, she was depressed, overweight and didn’t realize her obesity had anything to do with being sexually abused. It was only when she realized her weight gain was her incredibly resourceful way of trying to protect herself that she understood. She then began to set herself free.”

On a subconscious level, gaining excess weight was the sexually abused child’s solution to the fear of unwanted sexual advances. Wearing layers of flannel pajamas to delay the inevitable transformed into layers of protective fat in adulthood. Compulsive overeating was the only way to self-soothe when no one was available for support.

Your attempts at losing weight may be fraught with repeated failures. Not because you lack willpower, but because on a deep level you are afraid. If this reflects your experience, here are three suggestions to help you release weight in a way that is emotionally safe and self-loving.

1.  Safety

Before beginning any weight loss plan, it is important that your current home environment is safe and secure. If you are in a difficult or abusive relationship, or in a strained family situation, deal with this first. Create for yourself an atmosphere of love and support. Before you can release excess weight, your inner child, and the adult that you are today, needs to be safe.

2.  Support

Make sure you have at least one trusted friend or family member that you can talk to about the sexual abuse you experienced. Let them know that this may emerge for you as you begin to release weight. Give yourself the gift of professional help. It is not unusual to feel anxious as you lose weight because you are letting go of something that on a deep level has served to emotionally protect you. It may feel very scary. A skilled therapist can help support you through this process and help you to manage overwhelming feelings that may emerge.

3.  Patience

Take your time. Have patience and realize that this process isn’t just about releasing weight. It’s about releasing your fears and your pain. The longer it takes to release weight the more you can trust that an inner shift is happening. You need that time to transform your thinking and your beliefs so you can develop an emotional readiness to release weight. And to feel safe. This reassures your inner child that the comfort and familiarity of excess weight will not be taken away from her before she is ready. Having patience will help you adjust to small, incremental weight loss shifts and the feelings that go along with that. Your developing inner strength then becomes the foundation that will help you release weight with confidence and self-love.

Do you know someone with a weight issue who was sexually abused? What helps them to feel safe as they release weight?

About DianePetrella

Diane Petrella, MSW is a psychotherapist and life coach. She offers her clients a spiritual approach to weight release and helps them develop a loving, respectful relationship with their bodies. Receive a free copy of Diane’s Seven Easy & Effortless Weight Loss Secrets by signing up for her monthly e-newsletter, Living Lightly, for spiritual insights and tips to release weight with confidence and love. To contact Diane visit www.dianepetrella.com.


  1. Steve Houldsworth says:

    The irony is incredible. Remember when experts blamed being gay on sexual abuse. Oh wait, they still do. Now, via a case study of 1, this author makes the same claim about being fat and sexual abuse. This kind of psycho-babble is not just wrong, it is harmful. Davey, I really appreciate your many messages of love and acceptance, but, on the issue of weight, your website really tells a different story.

    • Steve, I’m sorry, but as a child sexual abuse survivor, I’m really offended by your comments. They imply that sexual abuse does not have any side effects once so ever and that it doesn’t have long lasting effects on the psyche. I can tell you with absolute certainty that there are side effects to that kind of abuse and that you still have to deal with them even years after the abuse. And “psycho-babble” as you call it, actually helps you work through and move forward from those side effects.

      You are also comparing a bunch of morons that have no research behind their claims that sexual abuse causes homosexuality and actual research on sexual abuse. There is a huge difference!! Please do not compare the two!! Even though this author does not provide research sources, I’m sure there is adequate studies that back up her claims.

      And I also see nothing harmful about this article, except for your negative comments. In the future, please keep your opinions on sexual abuse to yourself. Thank you!

      • Steve Houldsworth says:

        Dustin, I am sorry if I offended you. Of course, sexual abuse creates emotional trauma that impacts the abuse survivor. However, I find the implication of the article that all fat people are dealing with unresolved issues from sexual abuse offensive. There are many overweight people who are survivors of childhood sexual abuse. There are many “normal” wieght people who are dealing with unresolved issues from sexual abuse. The myriad of ways the emotional trauma of childhood sexual abuse can play out in individuals is as diverse as the survivors themselves.

        The folks on the “sexual abuse = gay” perspective can argue very persuasively that they have seen hundreds of gay clients who are survivors of childhood sexual abuse. So, just as Diane argues, there must be a connection. However, the reality is that there are lots and lots of childhood sexual abuse survivors. Childhood sexual abuse is rampant in our culture. So, if you are working with X population, you will find that there are many sexual abuse survivors in that population. But, that correlation does not mean there is a causality. In any subset of people within our culture there will be sexual abuse survivors.

        I also disagree that the research is clear that there is a causal relationship between childhood sexual abuse and adult obesity. Most of these studies begin with obese adults who are seeking therapy. Again, I would argue that if you take any subset of adults in our culture seeking therapy, there would be many, many childhood sexual abuse survivors.

        Dustin, I am sorry if I was not clear. The psycho-babble I was referring to is the idea that childhood sexual abuse leads to adult obesity or stated more clearly if an adult is obese then they must have experienced childhood sexual abuse. That is the implicaion I find offensive.

        • Dustin-Lee says:

          Steve, Thank you very much for clarifying your thoughts. I really appreciate it. You do make a lot of great points. And I even agree with a few of them. I am sorry that I misunderstood/assumed your meaning and overreacted a bit. I do apologize for that.

        • Battista Lonardi says:

          That implication was not contained in D.P.’s article. There are some (I can’t state how many) people who suffered sexual abuses as children and are now overweight. It doesn’t mean neither that every sexual abused children will become overweight nor that every obese person has undergone sexual abuses.

    • Dear Steve, This article is not a case study of one but one client example of hundreds. Earlier in my career I developed the first child sexual abuse treatment program in Rhode Island. As I later worked with adults who were sexually abused as children, and who were overweight or obese, it became clear that their excess weight provided a level of emotional protection. I’m not a researcher but this connection is well established by those working with such populations. My intent in writing this is to help those who can relate begin to feel less alone. I hope this puts my article in a different perspective for you. Warm regards, Diane

  2. Very powerful stuff! Thank you, Davey.

  3. To the author and Davey: Thank you for sharing this article. Much appreciated. It’s been an ongoing and seemingly never-ending process dealing with all of this stuff… (Oh and I never got the impression that the author was implying that *all* people who struggle with weight issues were sexually abused.)

  4. I like what you guys are up too. This sort of clever work and exposure!

    Keep up the amazing works guys I’ve included you guys to blogroll.

  5. Martina K says:

    I really appreciate this article, so thank you, Davey, and thank you, Diane.
    I have to agree with TK - there was no mention of “all overweight people”. There can be many reasons why are people overweight - sexual abuse can be one of those. That´s all this article is saying on this matter.
    Then, the article is offering ideas how to deal with your weight in case you´re one of those sexually abused people on top of that. Not many people can offer you some useful tips and even fewer of them share those. Not to mention these tips are very useful even when solving other issues in your life.
    So thank you very much for these tips again! 🙂

  6. Januar Sam says:

    Hey hey, The best results that I have ever had was with Red hot slim (i found it on google) Without a doubt the most helpful diet that I have ever tried.


  1. […] Davey Wavey's good friend and spiritual weight release coach, Diane… Originally posted here: Weight Loss and Sexual Abuse. | Davey Wavey Fitnessread more… Filed Under: Weight Loss Tagged With: coach, contributors, davey, diane, […]

  2. […] opportunity you’ve given us to bring it into the light. For further exploration, I recommend this article on weight loss and sexual abuse and Marianne Williamson’s book, A Course in Weight […]

  3. […] process. For a lot of people, losing weight can have a deep psychological component. Often times, weight issues are interwoven with childhood trauma, sexual abuse and so on. Some people eat food to self-soothe. Some people fear being perceived as attractive. […]